Jewish Book: Saving Myself, a Los Angeles Childhood
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A Los Angeles Childhood - Synopsis of the Book
Friday, 17 February 2012 12:13

My childhood memoir, SAVING MYSELF: A LOS ANGELES CHILDHOOD is about growing up Jewish in Los Angeles in the 1940s. It deals with an historic time, an historic place and surprising anti-Semitism and prejudice against young Jewish girls during that time.

Set in the early 1940s and 50s, SAVING MYSELF evokes the wonder and terror of anti-Semitic Eagle Rock, a small section of Los Angeles where the Simonoffs are the only Jewish family in their small neighborhood. The book  is from the viewpoint of a child as a young girl trying to understand the early loss of her birth mother as well as abandonment by her friends because she is Jewish.  She is constantly told by a Christian neighbor boy, on the way to school and on the way home, “You killed Christ.” She is refused membership in the local chapter of the Girl Scouts because she is Jewish. She is finally abandoned by her own religion when she is denied her place as a Bat Mitzvah to become responsible for her own deeds, spiritually, ethically and morally, because she is a girl.

She is not allowed to read Torah, the exclusion from traditional rites of passage—one loss after another spanning all the years of childhood. The memoir truly captures the child’s voice.

Not until sixty is she able to put it all together.  Like many who suffered early and continual loss, this memoir comes full circle in a journey toward spiritual, transformational wholeness with her Bat Mitzvah at age sixty-two as it did for her adoptive mother at the age of seventy-five. It is the universal wish for a sense of belonging. It is the story of loss, then redemption.

Here is a short piece from SAVING MYSELF.  I hope you will want to read more.


Mother, I look for your remains inside walls and crypts, caged behind a two-inch slab faced with your name.

I bring flowers, gather water for the vases no longer there, and search for these down the row, dusty rings that held them, vases dusty, memories all dust in the burial chamber.

Can I exhume more than isolated facts and recreate a whole from decomposed matter? You’re a handful of dust I can’t mix with memory and make whole.

What do I expect, some part of the sky to crack open and hand you to me, creating a facsimile when even your books—Moliere, The Count of Monte Cristo, in French—mold, fade, or just plain disappear?

What I have now are musty smells only books hold, something about the air the morning you died, my memory of you before words, as I lay in my crib, covers binding, trying to claw my way out and run to you when you called me.

I hear you, without voice, utter, “It’s too bad I couldn’t leave a note like a suicide. But I will sneak these last bits of me between pages of my favorite books. Scatter hints around the country so you will not walk into places a stranger.

“It’s a puzzle. Place all the pieces out in front of you. Memories of me. How my smile looked. Picture of my hand holding your hand.

“Think of it, Jeanne, as a scavenger hunt, with these fragments a map, a language that mirrors early morning, some sand left in your eyes.”

Return soon for my Father's story and thank you for reading Not Just A Jewish Book Blog.